5 Cool Things for 12.9.2012

To you and to yours I send heartfelt tidings. May your heart (and glass) be full, your children close, your season chipper and your tree tall and straight. As a lover of irony, I did a double take when I read that we ought live without. Speedboat is a fine (if ironic) book from the 70s by a great writer and rebel and it’s coming back round. Two powerful and beautiful women laugh, shoot and play with technology. A website offers an irresistible visual and virtual tour of reading underground. What if a search engine took us to all the cool places, people and things we find in books? Oh, you would like the perfect gift? Check. I had coffee with Voltaire the other day. After I told him my story he looked into my eyes and said, “‎Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” I could only agree. Thanks for being here. Build yourself a great big fire, light up the tree and have yourself a warm and lovely holiday.

 1. Spanking the Monk Hipster | Christy Wampole Speaks  

Hipster culture is nothing without irony. And irony, fun and delicious, is after all, posturing. So it was only a matter of time before someone issued a course correction to try and make things right. Here is the first sentence from Christy Wampole’s recent screed article in the New York Times, How to Live Without Irony:

“If irony is the ethos of our age — and it is — then the hipster is our archetype of ironic living.”

Well. Tell us how you really feel. But what follows is important, I think. It calls on us to be better humans, more genuine and true. Sincere. And no surprise, David Foster Wallace smartly elbows his way into the conversation.

The long haul of irony

From Christy Wampole: “….the ironic clique appears simply too comfortable, too brainlessly compliant. Ironic living is a first-world problem. For the relatively well educated and financially secure, irony functions as a kind of credit card you never have to pay back. In other words, the hipster can frivolously invest in sham social capital without ever paying back one sincere dime. He doesn’t own anything he possesses.” (Not sure how financially secure most hipsters are, but that’s off point.)

Deep into this piece comes mention of something new, at least for me — The New Sincerity. Here’s a slice of the New Sincerity articulated by the late David Foster Wallace. From 1993 —

DFW

“The next real literary “rebels” in this country might well emerge as some weird bunch of anti-rebels, born oglers who dare somehow to back away from ironic watching, who have the childish gall actually to endorse and instantiate single-entendre principles. Who treat of plain old untrendy human troubles and emotions in U.S. life with reverence and conviction. Who eschew self-consciousness and hip fatigue. These anti-rebels would be outdated, of course, before they even started. Dead on the page. Too sincere. Clearly repressed. Backward, quaint, naive, anachronistic. Maybe that’ll be the point. Maybe that’s why they’ll be the next real rebels. Real rebels, as far as I can see, risk disapproval. The old postmodern insurgents risked the gasp and squeal: shock, disgust, outrage, censorship, accusations of socialism, anarchism, nihilism. Today’s risks are different. The new rebels might be artists willing to risk the yawn, the rolled eyes, the cool smile, the nudged ribs, the parody of gifted ironists, the “Oh how banal.” To risk accusations of sentimentality, melodrama. Of overcredulity. Of softness. Of willingness to be suckered by a world of lurkers and starers who fear gaze and ridicule above imprisonment without law. Who knows.”

Whether or not DFWs argument for art with reverence and conviction, real feeling and sentiment was rooted in his own suffering, who can say? But reading his words only reminds us of how much we lost when David Foster Wallace took his leave. Snark and ironic detachment are difficult to hold onto when you’re so truly and seriously attached to making great art and you are so unwell that you can no longer live.

But what if Christy Wampole is all wrong? 

All in all a provocative, necessary discussion. Here is How to Live Without Irony. And here, via hipster Jonathan Fitzgerald writing in The Atlantic, is the perfect rebuttal to Christy Wampole and a deeper look at the New Sincerity >>

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2. Through Adler’s Telling | Speedboat, by Renata Adler Returns

Speedboat, by Renata Adler

You heard it here first. Speedboat, a 1976 award-winning novel by former New Yorker writer and bomb thrower, Renata Adler, will be reissued by the New York Review of Books. Mark your calendar for March 19, 2013, the same date that the sequel, Pitch Dark, will also be published by the NYRB.

Paris Review writer Anna Wiener fell in love with this book. “To fall head over heels for Speedboat is a fitting reaction to this particular novel, I think. Language—not character, not culture, not love or money or society or truth or journalism or sex or politics or technology or connection, although all of these things are essential, are crucial satellites—pins the center of this book down. Language is the thing. Upon the first reading, during that gray and yawning time, I no longer wanted to see the world for another person; I wanted to see it refracted through Adler’s telling.”

Buy Speedboat here >>

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 3. Two Hot Broads | iPhone Photo of the Month

Two hot broads being true to themselves.

If Helen Mirren had been there, the universe would have imploded. Of the many memorable quotes uttered by Hilary Clinton, I dig this, “You have to be true to yourself.” If Hilary becomes more beloved than she already is the sun will fall out of the sky. Fair warning.

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Song for Sunday :: Canto De Ossanha :: Jurassic 5

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4. Reader, Reader, New York, New York | The Underground Library

Is this hipster ironic or sincere as he reads John Berger on the subway? I say both. (This is for the other John Berger. You know who you are. )

Utterly irresistible photographs of New York Subway riders deep into books. What are they reading? The Financial Lives of the Poets, Don Quixote, Atlas Shrugged, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Ways of Seeing (shown above), The Broom of the System, A Short History of Women, Night, etc. Go look >>

Note the “Borrow’ and ‘Read’ buttons.

(Not affiliated with the NYC public library.)

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5. A Very Cool Thing | Small Demons Literary Search Engine

Absolutely brilliant idea. Think of all the places that a good book takes you. Then think about the people, real and not, that a good book brings you. And then imagine a search engine that can connect all those dots and you have Small Demons. Whatever you might find in a story — a cocktail, a cockatoo, a cockpit, a cockroach, a pianist named Ryder, a count named Vronsky — it’s all here. Hard to tell how many books are listed, but there are many. Check it out >>

The screenshot below is from Small Demons.

The Modern Library of the 100 greatest novels. How many have you read?

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A Gift Idea for You | Book Book from twelve south   

You so need this. I so need this. An iPhone case that thinks it’s a book.

 

The company is called twelve south.

twelve south makes cases for iPads and laptops too. Apple products only, so you Android users can just move along, there’s nothing to see here.

Dear twelve south, contact me and I’ll help with the copy.

Here’s a snippet of the copy for all my copywriting friends. It’s workmanlike, but uninspired. For such an uber cool product I want more than phrases like, “convenient ID window” and “slots for your debit/credit cards.” Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz. What say you?

Thank you.

Five Cool Things :: June 10, 2012

FCT Cafe

Just when you thought it was safe to go back outside here comes a summer issue of FCT. Apologies for the long absence. In this issue, Laetitia, Wislawa, Gill, Ida and Orhan. Speaking of Orhan Pamuk, this is what he wrote in Snow, “How much can we hope to understand those who have suffered deeper anguish, greater deprivation, and more crushing disappointments than we ourselves have known?” Not nearly enough, Orhan.

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1. Laetitia Sadier | Find Me the Pulse of the Universe

laetitia sadier ~ she is french.

[audio:http://www.fivecoolthingsblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Laetitia-Sadier-Find-Me-The-Pulse-Of-The-Universe1.mp3|titles=Laetitia-Sadier-Find-Me-The-Pulse-Of-The-Universe]

iPad / iPhone users listen here>>

I found this music — 10 mp3s you need to download for free this week — here>>

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2. Wislawa Szymborska | The End and the Beginning

scorched earth | richard pelletier

The End and the Beginning

Wislawa Szymborska

After every war
someone has to clean up.
Things won’t
straighten themselves up, after all.

Someone has to push the rubble
to the side of the road,
so the corpse-filled wagons
can pass.

Someone has to get mired
in scum and ashes,
sofa springs,
splintered glass,
and bloody rags.

Someone has to drag in a girder
to prop up a wall,
Someone has to glaze a window,
rehang a door.

Photogenic it’s not,
and takes years.
All the cameras have left
for another war.

We’ll need the bridges back,
and new railway stations.
Sleeves will go ragged
from rolling them up.

Someone, broom in hand,
still recalls the way it was.
Someone else listens
and nods with unsevered head.
But already there are those nearby
starting to mill about
who will find it dull.

From out of the bushes
sometimes someone still unearths
rusted-out arguments
and carries them to the garbage pile.

Those who knew
what was going on here
must make way for
those who know little.
And less than little.
And finally as little as nothing.

In the grass that has overgrown
causes and effects,
someone must be stretched out
blade of grass in his mouth
gazing at the clouds.

Wislawa Szymborska Do you not love her face?

The fct guy reads The End and the Beginning

listen
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3. Not Drawing a Blank | Gil Blank Photographer

photograph by gil blank

Meet New York City based Gil Blank — such an interesting photographer. This is as good place as any to start>>

Have a look at his photographic series based in Portland, Maine>>

Read into the wee hours — look at all these essays>>

From an interview with the photographer Wolfgang Tillmans:

WT: “I like the idea of the photograph as something that joins me to the world, that connects me to others, that I can share. I can get in touch with somebody when they recognize a feeling: “Oh, I felt like that before. I remember jeans hanging on the banister, even though I’ve never seen that exact pair. I’ve seen my oranges on a windowsill.” It’s the sense that “I’m not alone.” That’s the driving force behind sharing these things—that I want to find connections in people. I believe that every thought and idea has to be somehow rendered through personal experience, and then generalized.”

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4. Orhan Pamuk | Paris Review

“We could die here and nobody would ever know.” That’s Orhan Pamuk in a lively Paris Review interview. Well worth your time.

Choice excerpt: Although I was raised in a crowded family and taught to cherish the community, I later acquired an impulse to break away. There is a self-
destructive side to me, and in bouts of fury and moments of anger I do things that cut me off from the pleasant company of the community. Early in life I realized that the community kills my imagination. I need the pain of loneliness to make my imagination work. And then I’m happy. But being a Turk, after a while I need the consoling tenderness of the community, which I may have destroyed. Istanbul destroyed my relationship with my mother—we don’t see each other anymore. And of course I hardly ever see my brother. My relationship with the Turkish public, because of my recent comments, is also difficult.

Read the entire interview here>>

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5. Power & Imagination | Ida Applebroog

copyright ida applebroog

copyright ida applebroog

I want those shoes, that’s all I can say. Ms. Ida is a bit of a national treasure. Now please watch this. (This video won’t work on iPad/iPhone. Desktop only.)

1.20.11

Morning!

This week’s issue of Five Cool Things comes to you from an undisclosed location in the great metropolis of Seattle, my old hometown. Language and human nature could fill a book, but for now here’s an animated video. Have you ever wondered where Woody Allen sits down to write? Imagine all the fun you could have cooking up wacky alternative titles for Malcom Gladwell. A fine, Seattle based artist turns out to be an old colleague. A young photographer, a big talent, a not so happy ending. “Every part of all this soil is sacred to my people. Every hillside, every valley, every plain and grove has been hollowed by some sad or happy event in days long vanished. The very dust you now stand on responds more willingly to their footsteps than to yours, because it is rich with the blood of our ancestors and our bare feet are conscious of the sympathetic touch.” Chief Seattle

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1. Man and Language | A Window into Human Nature

Language and Human Culture (click image)

This video animation is essential if you are fascinated by and love language. Here are a few snippets: “Language is a window into social relations.” “This is what we would call an indirect speech act.” “We veil our intentions in innuendo, hoping for our listener to read between the lines to infer our real intent.”  “There are only three major relationship types across the world’s cultures: Dominance, Commonality, Reciprocity.”

From the RSA website: “For over 250 years the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) has been a cradle of enlightenment thinking and a force for social progress.  Our approach is multidisciplinary, politically independent and combines cutting edge research and policy development with practical action.” Watch those multidisciplinary, cutting edge cliches.

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2. The Woodman at Work | Woody Allen’s Desk

This is the Desk Where Woody Writes

“You know what my philosophy of life is? That it’s important to have some laughs, but you gotta suffer a little too, because otherwise you miss the whole point to life.” – “My hand to God, she’s gonna be at Carnegie Hall. But you – I’ll let you have her now at the old price, OK? Which is, which is anything you wanna give me. Anything at all.” Danny Rose
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3. Bestseller Hijinks | Malcom Gladwell Headline Generator

Fake Malcom Gladwell Bestsellers

How many bestsellers has Malcom crafted? Many! Have more fun at Malcom Gladwell’s expense, here:

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4. Larry Calkins | Art at the Gail Gibson Gallery in Seattle

Larry Calkins, laughing matter, 2010 ink on folded paper, 30 x 22 inches

Larry Calkins, lovely nancy, 2010 cloth, wax, paper, metal and ashes, 50 x 19 inches

The biggest surprise of this weekend in Seattle, was not discovering the work of Larry Calkins. It was discovering that I actually know Larry Calkins – from a long ago job in Seattle. I was, and am, floored by the work. Larry, hardly knew ye. From Larry’s website:

Sculptures – are usually made of metal and cloth. Larry creates his signature dresses out of cotton fabric and then treats the sewn shapes with any pigment available and/or suitable, from dirt to clay to ashes. The shapes are coated with beeswax and the surface is then worked until a satisfactory result is achieved, both in color and texture: a look and feel of aged leather.

The surface may or may not be the base for additional clues: crude metal buttons sewn on, or photographs; sometimes transfer prints of drawings, or maybe woodcut prints directly onto the surface.

Stands are made of rusted metal, welded together, each one unique and adding character to the appearance of the sculpture. Some of the dress sculptures are free standing, others are made to hang on metal hangers on the wall.

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5. Photographer Jessica Woodman | The Woodmans

photo by francesca woodman

The parents are full time artists with big ambitions. Their daughter grows up, has a big talent as a photographer, makes a splash, can’t seem to get past the initial splash to move into a longer term fulfilling career, and during a period of despair, kills herself. She becomes famous in absentia, eclipsing the notoriety of her parents, one of whom is not terribly happy that the daughter has taken the spotlight. This is a touching, heartbreaking, affecting film directed with a deft touch by C. Scott Willis. The costs of making art, the challenges of parenthood, the price of big ambitions. The score is beautiful and was written by the Pulitzer Prize winning composer, David Lang. Watch the trailer.

Five Cool Things 1.09.11

Five Cool Things

Morning!

As a general rule, good television does not often involve an adventurous game show host and an avant-garde composer-guest playing clock radios and bath tubs, but there was such a time in America when such things did take place. I love that Robert Smartwood had a brilliant idea and that he executed it so well that the world – and W.W. Norton & Company – flocked to his doorstep. I’m not sure anything gives quite the serotonin kick of discovering the work of an outrageously funny and brilliant writer. Google Docs is steadily becoming an indispensable tool of modern life, discuss. Is there such a thing as progress and if there is, how have the historically poor and sick nations of the world progressed over the last two hundred years? Glad you’re here mates. Onward.

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1. Avant-Garde TV | John Cage’s Water Walk

I can’t possibly think of anything to add to this. Thanks to Marbury via Alex Ross.

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2. Short But Stout | Hint Fiction

Hint Fiction ~ Robert Smartwood

It was Lincoln who once apologized for writing a long letter by saying, “I didn’t have the time to write a short one.” Writing short is far more difficult than writing long, which makes Hint Fiction~An Anthology of Stories in 25 Words or Less, all the more impressive and wonderful. You’d like samples? My pleasure.

NOT WAVING
– by Hannah Craig

“What’s he doing out there,” Marnie asked.
We were sick of the lake, sunburned and wanted to go home.
I muttered. “I have no idea.”

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KENNY & SON
-by Ben Jahn

We found him in a motel a mile north of San Quentin. He had the Gideon
open on the nightstand so the boy would see.

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PROGRESS
-by Joe Schreiber

After seventeen days she finally broke down and called him, “Daddy.”

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Hint Fiction is the brainchild of the writer Robert Smartwood who lives in Pennsylvania. Learn more about Robert at his blog. Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories in 25 Words or Fewer
As promised, below is my own 25 word story.

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CHAMBER OF HEARTACHE
-by Richard Pelletier

Every cell in my body felt it, knew it. Evil washed over me like a black waterfall. And I left her there.

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3. Man on Fire | Encountering Lorrie Moore, Genius

Super Funny Literary Dream Girl Lorrie Moore

Yes, I know that Jonathan Franzen is the terrific soup du jour, but I’d also like to call your attention to a particularly wonderful special we have today. Name of Lorrie Moore. This past Christmas I wandered into a bookstore and in five seconds flat, I’d grabbed (purely on instinct and a dim memory of something I’d read) a signed first edition of Lorrie Moore’s A Gate at the Stairs, a 2010 Pen Faulkner Award nominee.

This was a gift for my friend JM, and before I handed it over, I read a few pages (I wore cotton gloves, promise!) and was transfixed. Later, JM  texted: “Just now finished my book. loved it 2 pieces. Can’t wait 4 u 2 read it.”

Dear JM: I can’t wait either because I just finished reading her short story, People Like That Are the Only People Here, one of the most powerful stories I’ve ever read. After that I read, You’re Ugly, Too and laughed so hard I thought I thought I was gonna swallow my head.

Two things are clear: Lorrie Moore is one of the very best writers working in America today and far too many readers and lovers of fiction don’t know her work. She flies high and goes deep and is laugh out loud funny. Does it get any better than that? So in my spare time, you’ll see me on the roof of my house shouting and waving at passing commercial airliners, “HEY UP THERE! READ LORRIE MOORE. READ EVERYTHING SHE WRITES. LORRIE MOORE IS A GREAT WRITER!” New York Times review of A Gate at the Stairs.  Amazon link here>>

Excerpt from People Like That Are the Only People Here

by Lorrie Moore

“Healthy? I just want the kid to be rich.” A joke, for God’s sake. After he was born, she announced that her life had become a daily sequence of mind-wrecking chores, the same one’s over and over again, like a novel by Mrs. Camus. Another joke! These jokes will kill you. She had told too often, and with too much enjoyment, the story of how the Baby had said “Hi” to his high chair, waved at the lake waves, shouted “Goody-goody-goody” in what seemed to be a Russian accent, pointed at his eyes and said “Ice.” And all that nonsensical baby talk: wasn’t it a stitch? Canonical babbling, the language experts called it. He recounted whole stories in it, totally made up, she could tell; he embroidered, he fished, he exaggerated. What a card! To friends she spoke of his eating habits (carrots yes, tuna no). She mentioned, too much, his sidesplitting giggle. Did she have to be so boring? Did she have no consideration for others, for the intellectual demands and courtesies of human society? Would she not even attempt to be more interesting? It was a crime against the human mind not even to try.

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4. Silver Lined Cloud | Google Docs Gets Video

Google Docs

There are myriad reasons why you should get a Gmail account (yes, MW, I’m talking to you:) and now you can add yet another one to the list. Google offers a truly impressive array of free tools for geeks and luddites alike. There’s Gmail, Google Analytics, Google Keyword Tools, Google Docs, Google Maps, Google Places, the list goes go on forever. Did I mention all this is FREE?? So here’s the latest. You can now upload just about any kind of file to Google Docs – including video. AND you can play said video inside Google Docs. So if your work requires you to make, shoot or play video, and you collaborate with others on these projects, then Google Docs offers you a simple, free, user-friendly way to do your work online together. Welcome. More info here>>

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5. Poor Nation, Rich Nation | Hans Rosling’s Killer Visual Data Show

Good news alert! Sword-swallower and Swedish professor of global health, Hans Rosling has a message for those – no names please – who argue against the notion of progress. He’s got the data to prove them wrong. Rosling is a ham, but his presentation is pure genius. Data visualization, complex storytelling at its finest. Learn more here>>

Five Cool Things Dec 19

Photographer Brigitte Lacombe

In 2009, French born photographer Brigitte Lacombe released a monograph, anima | persona, published by Steidl Press. Ms. Lacombe’s illustrious career as an image maker has brought all of us who care to look, into the center of politics and culture and to signature players and moments in the arts. Of particular note; she’s been shooting movie stills of everything from Taxi Driver to Revolutionary Road to all of David Mamet’s productions starting with Glengarry Glen Ross. (Those stills are not to be found anywhere!) I thought it might be a cool Christmas present to show you a few of Ms. Lacombe’s images and to combine those images with related articles, memos, screenplays, etc. Special thanks to Ms. Lacombe and her staff for allowing me to share these images with you. Merry Christmas Five Cool Things Readers! (All photographs are copyright Brigitte Lacombe. The photograph of Ms. Lacombe is from the Charlie Rose show.)

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1. Photograph by Brigitte Lacombe | Story by George Packer

Richard Holbrooke April 24, 1941 ~ December 13, 2010 photo by Brigitte Lacombe

Ambassador Richard Holbrooke was relentless, larger-than-life and brilliant. What follows is an excerpt from George Packer’s profile, The Last Mission, that ran in the New Yorker last year.

The Obama adviser said, “There’s almost an inevitability or gravitational force that pulls Holbrooke into relevant circles, because he makes himself indispensable.” A few days after being selected Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton called Holbrooke to offer him the job. In late November, they talked for three hours at Essex House, in New York. He already had a detailed conception of the new position. For starters, he would not be a “special envoy”—the title given to George Mitchell, Obama’s chief negotiator for the Middle East. “I’ve done that,” Holbrooke told me. (Under Bill Clinton, he had been a special envoy for both Cyprus and Kosovo.) “ ‘Envoy’ is an elegant diplomatic word. . . . I have nothing against it. It’s an honored and treasured word. It means envoi—you’re sent to do things. I was given a different task.” He wanted to be a “special representative.” The difference was more than semantic: in addition to being an emissary to the region, Holbrooke would run operations on the civilian side of American policy. He would create a rump regional bureau within the State Department, carved out of the Bureau of South and Central Asia, whose Afghanistan and Pakistan desks would report directly to him. He would assemble outside experts and officials from various government agencies to work for him, and he would report to the President through Hillary Clinton. Clinton told Holbrooke that he would be the civilian counterpart to General David Petraeus, the military head of Central Command. “I laughed,” Holbrooke told me. “I said, ‘He has more airplanes than I have telephones.’ ”
Read George Packer’s brilliant profile, The Last Mission, here>>

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2. Photograph by Brigitte Lacombe | Doubt by John Patrick Shanley

Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt photo by Brigitte Lacombe

{DOUBT}

FLYNN
I can’t say everything, you
understand? There’s things I can’t
say. Even if you can’t imagine the
explanation, Sister, remember there
are things beyond your knowledge.
Even if you feel certainty, it is
an emotion, not a fact.
SISTER ALOYSIUS
You will request a transfer, and
take a leave of absence until it’s
granted.
FLYNN
You’d leave me nothing.
SISTER ALOYSIUS
It’s Donald Miller who has nothing,
and you took full advantage of
that.
FLYNN
I’ve done nothing wrong. I care
about that boy.
SISTER ALOYSIUS
Why? ‘Cause you smile at him and
you sympathize with him, and you
talk to him as if you were the
same? You are a cheat. And that
warm feeling you experienced, when
that boy looked at you with trust,
was not the sensation of virtue.

{Screenplay by John Patrick Shanley | Based on his stage play.}

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3. Photograph by Brigitte Lacombe | Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

Still photograph from Revolutionary Road by Brigitte Lacombe

{REVOLUTIONARY ROAD}

JOHN
And what’s in Paris?
APRIL
A different way of life.
FRANK
So maybe we are running…  We’re
running from the hopeless emptiness
of the whole life here.
JOHN
The hopeless emptiness?  Now,
you’ve said it.  Plenty of people
are on to the emptiness, but it
takes real guts to see the
hopelessness…  Wow.
John continues walking.  Frank and April watch him go.

{Screenplay by Justin Haythe | Based on the novel by Richard Yates}

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4. Photograph by Brigitte Lacombe | David Mamet & THE CAPS LOCK KEY

David Mamet by Brigitte Lacombe

PLAYWRIGHT SMACKDOWN! David Mamet was the Executive Producer of a special ops TV show called The Unit which ran from 2006-2009. A fascinating and memorable, ALL IN CAPS Mamet Memo {ex. “ANY DICKHEAD WITH A BLUE SUIT”}  leaked during the show’s run and went viral. This happened a while ago but it’s still worth a look, especially if you’ve not seen it yet. Here it is in full.

“TO THE WRITERS OF THE UNIT

GREETINGS.

AS WE LEARN HOW TO WRITE THIS SHOW, A RECURRING PROBLEM BECOMES CLEAR.

THE PROBLEM IS THIS: TO DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN DRAMA AND NON-DRAMA. LET ME BREAK-IT-DOWN-NOW.

EVERYONE IN CREATION IS SCREAMING AT US TO MAKE THE SHOW CLEAR. WE ARE TASKED WITH, IT SEEMS, CRAMMING A SHITLOAD OF INFORMATION INTO A LITTLE BIT OF TIME.

OUR FRIENDS. THE PENGUINS, THINK THAT WE, THEREFORE, ARE EMPLOYED TO COMMUNICATE INFORMATION — AND, SO, AT TIMES, IT SEEMS TO US.

BUT NOTE:THE AUDIENCE WILL NOT TUNE IN TO WATCH INFORMATION. YOU WOULDN’T, I WOULDN’T. NO ONE WOULD OR WILL. THE AUDIENCE WILL ONLY TUNE IN AND STAY TUNED TO WATCH DRAMA.

QUESTION:WHAT IS DRAMA? DRAMA, AGAIN, IS THE QUEST OF THE HERO TO OVERCOME THOSE THINGS WHICH PREVENT HIM FROM ACHIEVING A SPECIFIC, ACUTE GOAL.

SO: WE, THE WRITERS, MUST ASK OURSELVES OF EVERY SCENE THESE THREE QUESTIONS.

1) WHO WANTS WHAT?
2) WHAT HAPPENS IF HER DON’T GET IT?
3) WHY NOW?

THE ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS ARE LITMUS PAPER. APPLY THEM, AND THEIR ANSWER WILL TELL YOU IF THE SCENE IS DRAMATIC OR NOT.

IF THE SCENE IS NOT DRAMATICALLY WRITTEN, IT WILL NOT BE DRAMATICALLY ACTED.

THERE IS NO MAGIC FAIRY DUST WHICH WILL MAKE A BORING, USELESS, REDUNDANT, OR MERELY INFORMATIVE SCENE AFTER IT LEAVES YOUR TYPEWRITER. YOU THE WRITERS, ARE IN CHARGE OF MAKING SURE EVERY SCENE IS DRAMATIC.

THIS MEANS ALL THE “LITTLE” EXPOSITIONAL SCENES OF TWO PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT A THIRD. THIS BUSHWAH (AND WE ALL TEND TO WRITE IT ON THE FIRST DRAFT) IS LESS THAN USELESS, SHOULD IT FINALLY, GOD FORBID, GET FILMED.

IF THE SCENE BORES YOU WHEN YOU READ IT, REST ASSURED IT WILL BORE THE ACTORS, AND WILL, THEN, BORE THE AUDIENCE, AND WE’RE ALL GOING TO BE BACK IN THE BREADLINE.

SOMEONE HAS TO MAKE THE SCENE DRAMATIC. IT IS NOT THE ACTORS JOB (THE ACTORS JOB IS TO BE TRUTHFUL). IT IS NOT THE DIRECTORS JOB. HIS OR HER JOB IS TO FILM IT STRAIGHTFORWARDLY AND REMIND THE ACTORS TO TALK FAST. IT IS YOUR JOB.

EVERY SCENE MUST BE DRAMATIC. THAT MEANS: THE MAIN CHARACTER MUST HAVE A SIMPLE, STRAIGHTFORWARD, PRESSING NEED WHICH IMPELS HIM OR HER TO SHOW UP IN THE SCENE.

THIS NEED IS WHY THEY CAME. IT IS WHAT THE SCENE IS ABOUT. THEIR ATTEMPT TO GET THIS NEED MET WILL LEAD, AT THE END OF THE SCENE,TO FAILURE – THIS IS HOW THE SCENE IS OVER. IT, THIS FAILURE, WILL, THEN, OF NECESSITY, PROPEL US INTO THE NEXT SCENE.

ALL THESE ATTEMPTS, TAKEN TOGETHER, WILL, OVER THE COURSE OF THE EPISODE, CONSTITUTE THE PLOT.

ANY SCENE, THUS, WHICH DOES NOT BOTH ADVANCE THE PLOT, AND STANDALONE (THAT IS, DRAMATICALLY, BY ITSELF, ON ITS OWN MERITS) IS EITHER SUPERFLUOUS, OR INCORRECTLY WRITTEN.

YES BUT YES BUT YES BUT, YOU SAY: WHAT ABOUT THE NECESSITY OF WRITING IN ALL THAT “INFORMATION?”

AND I RESPOND “FIGURE IT OUT” ANY DICKHEAD WITH A BLUE SUIT CAN BE (AND IS) TAUGHT TO SAY “MAKE IT CLEARER”, AND “I WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT HIM”.

WHEN YOU’VE MADE IT SO CLEAR THAT EVEN THIS BLUE SUITED PENGUIN IS HAPPY, BOTH YOU AND HE OR SHE WILL BE OUT OF A JOB.

THE JOB OF THE DRAMATIST IS TO MAKE THE AUDIENCE WONDER WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. NOT TO EXPLAIN TO THEM WHAT JUST HAPPENED, OR TO*SUGGEST* TO THEM WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.

ANY DICKHEAD, AS ABOVE, CAN WRITE, “BUT, JIM, IF WE DON’T ASSASSINATE THE PRIME MINISTER IN THE NEXT SCENE, ALL EUROPE WILL BE ENGULFED IN FLAME”

WE ARE NOT GETTING PAID TO REALIZE THAT THE AUDIENCE NEEDS THIS INFORMATION TO UNDERSTAND THE NEXT SCENE, BUT TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO WRITE THE SCENE BEFORE US SUCH THAT THE AUDIENCE WILL BE INTERESTED IN WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.

YES BUT, YES BUT YES BUT YOU REITERATE.

AND I RESPOND FIGURE IT OUT.

HOW DOES ONE STRIKE THE BALANCE BETWEEN WITHHOLDING AND VOUCHSAFING INFORMATION? THAT IS THE ESSENTIAL TASK OF THE DRAMATIST. AND THE ABILITY TO DO THAT IS WHAT SEPARATES YOU FROM THE LESSER SPECIES IN THEIR BLUE SUITS.

FIGURE IT OUT.

START, EVERY TIME, WITH THIS INVIOLABLE RULE: THE SCENE MUST BE DRAMATIC. it must start because the hero HAS A PROBLEM, AND IT MUST CULMINATE WITH THE HERO FINDING HIM OR HERSELF EITHER THWARTED OR EDUCATED THAT ANOTHER WAY EXISTS.

LOOK AT YOUR LOG LINES. ANY LOGLINE READING “BOB AND SUE DISCUSS…” IS NOT DESCRIBING A DRAMATIC SCENE.

PLEASE NOTE THAT OUR OUTLINES ARE, GENERALLY, SPECTACULAR. THE DRAMA FLOWS OUT BETWEEN THE OUTLINE AND THE FIRST DRAFT.

THINK LIKE A FILMMAKER RATHER THAN A FUNCTIONARY, BECAUSE, IN TRUTH, YOU ARE MAKING THE FILM. WHAT YOU WRITE, THEY WILL SHOOT.

HERE ARE THE DANGER SIGNALS. ANY TIME TWO CHARACTERS ARE TALKING ABOUT A THIRD, THE SCENE IS A CROCK OF SHIT.

ANY TIME ANY CHARACTER IS SAYING TO ANOTHER “AS YOU KNOW”,THAT IS, TELLING ANOTHER CHARACTER WHAT YOU, THE WRITER, NEED THE AUDIENCE TO KNOW, THE SCENE IS A CROCK OF SHIT.

DO NOT WRITE A CROCK OF SHIT. WRITE A RIPPING THREE, FOUR, SEVEN MINUTE SCENE WHICH MOVES THE STORY ALONG, AND YOU CAN, VERY SOON, BUY A HOUSE IN BEL AIR AND HIRE SOMEONE TO LIVE THERE FOR YOU.

REMEMBER YOU ARE WRITING FOR A VISUAL MEDIUM. MOST TELEVISION WRITING, OURS INCLUDED, SOUNDS LIKE RADIO. THE CAMERA CAN DO THE EXPLAINING FOR YOU. LET IT. WHAT ARE THE CHARACTERS DOING -*LITERALLY*. WHAT ARE THEY HANDLING, WHAT ARE THEY READING. WHAT ARE THEY WATCHING ON TELEVISION, WHAT ARE THEY SEEING.

IF YOU PRETEND THE CHARACTERS CANT SPEAK, AND WRITE A SILENT MOVIE, YOU WILL BE WRITING GREAT DRAMA.

IF YOU DEPRIVE YOURSELF OF THE CRUTCH OF NARRATION, EXPOSITION, INDEED, OF SPEECH. YOU WILL BE FORGED TO WORK IN A NEW MEDIUM – TELLING THE STORY IN PICTURES (ALSO KNOWN AS SCREENWRITING)

THIS IS A NEW SKILL. NO ONE DOES IT NATURALLY. YOU CAN TRAIN YOURSELVES TO DO IT, BUT YOU NEED TO START.

I CLOSE WITH THE ONE THOUGHT: LOOK AT THE SCENE AND ASK YOURSELF “IS IT DRAMATIC? IS IT ESSENTIAL? DOES IT ADVANCE THE PLOT?

ANSWER TRUTHFULLY.

IF THE ANSWER IS “NO” WRITE IT AGAIN OR THROW IT OUT. IF YOU’VE GOT ANY QUESTIONS, CALL ME UP.

LOVE, DAVE MAMET
SANTA MONICA 19 OCTO 05

(IT IS NOT YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO KNOW THE ANSWERS, BUT IT IS YOUR, AND MY, RESPONSIBILITY TO KNOW AND TO ASK THE RIGHT Questions OVER AND OVER. UNTIL IT BECOMES SECOND NATURE. I BELIEVE THEY ARE LISTED ABOVE.)”

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5. Photograph by Brigitte Lacombe | Kara Walker

Kara Walker, by Brigitte Lacombe

At the perfect age of 27, African American artist Kara Walker won a MacArthur Foundation genius grant. 27! At 37, she was listed as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. What follows is a brief excerpt from a piece in Time Magazine, written by artist Barbara Kruger:

Walker’s vigilance has produced a compelling reckoning with the twisted trajectories of race in America. Her installations and films forcefully pluralize our notion of a singular “history.” They create a profusion of backstories and revisions that slash and burn through the pieties of patriotism and the glosses of “color blindness.” Restarting the engines of seemingly archaic methods, from the graphic affect of silhouette portraits to the machine-age ethos of film, she produces a cast of characters and caricatures with appetites for destruction and reproduction, for power and sex. She raucously engages both the broad sweep of the big picture and the eloquence of the telling detail. She plays with stereotypes, turning them upside down, spread-eagle and inside out. She revels in cruelty and laughter. Platitudes sicken her. She is brave. Her silhouettes throw themselves against the wall and don’t blink.

untitled, kara walker

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Bonus Gallery of Brigitte Lacombe photographs & Kara Walker cutouts.

Burn 1998, Kara Walker

Kara Walker, Excavated from the black heart of a negress

Kara Walker, An Endless Conundrum, An African Anonymous Adventuress

Philip Roth ~ Brigitte Lacombe

Filmmaker Michael Haneke ~ Brigitte Lacombe

Artist Nina Chanel Abney ~ Brigitte Lacombe

The Queen, Helen Mirren ~ Brigitte Lacombe

Louise Bourgeois ~ Brigitte Lacombe

Sofia Coppola ~ Brigitte Lacombe